Christmas with the Wisdoms December 29, 2010Posted by Matt in Christmas, family.
Tags: birthday, Christmas, Christmas Eve service, Episcopal Church, Eucharist, family, gifts, Santa Claus
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It’s been an eventful and exhausting five days since I last posted, so let’s take a few moments to catch up.
Our holiday spring began on Friday when we were able to attend our first ever Christmas Eve service, the Holy Eucharist at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. The nave (that would be the auditorium for you CoCers out there and the sanctuary for you Baptists) was beautifully decorated, with two large Christmas trees adorning the front of the room, greenery draped throughout, and candles lit at each row of pews. The lights were dimmed quite low as the parishioners made their way into the building, found their seats, and took a few moments of silence to pray, reflect, or tell the kids to be quiet.
The service itself consisted of four scripture readings, one from the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, one from the Psalms, one from Paul’s letter to Titus, and finally, following the singing of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” Luke’s account of Christ’s birth. Father Patrick then addressed us with not one, but two sermons, the first of which was geared towards the children who gathered around him at the front of the building and the second to the adults. The two mini-sermons dealt with the implications of incarnation and both were quite interesting and meaningful. After the sermon, we then participated in the recitation of the Nicene Creed, the Prayers of the People, and ended with the regular greetings in the Peace of the Lord.
Though the first part of service was complete, the main event, aka Holy Communion, was still to come. We have grown accustomed to the practices of the Eucharist over the past two months and this was similar to that which we have done before. Row by row, the parishioners trooped to the front of the nave and knelt before the altar, where Father Patrick and another member would administer the bread and wine while the musicians played a mixture of soft Christmas music. Then, following the Post-Communion Prayer, the parishioners stood and sang Silent Night, with only the soft glow of candles cutting through the darkness. It was a moving experience and one more reason why I like the church.
Once the service ended, many of the congregants retreated to the CAB for a dinner of crawfish soup, red beans and rice, wine, and host of other morsels to make our Christmas Eve a little brighter. We ate and rejoiced in each other’s company, making this a Christmas Eve to remember. By the time we left, the kids were nearly falling over with exhaustion, so it was not difficult in the least to get them in bed and asleep, awaiting the arrival Santa Claus. Santa had a late night, though, particularly since his wife had to go to work at 10:00, but with the help of egg nog and the TBS marathon of A Christmas Story, all was completed by about 2:00am.
The kids were up bright and early Christmas morning, around the time that Diana arrived at home, so we did our first round of presents then. Rachel got the Nintendo DS she wanted, Bekah got a Leapster 2 (though she was certain Santa got them mixed up because she asked him specifically for a DS! We told her that Santa wanted to make sure she could take care of a Leapster first and that maybe she would get one next year.), and JD had several cars and trucks, including a large police vehicle with noise-making buttons. We ate a nice breakfast of waffles, then headed back to St. Tim’s for our first Christmas Day service.
Where the Eve service was much more solemn and introspective, the Christmas Day service was one of great joy, one in which the kids were free to roam about the nave, and infectious laughter and fun spread quickly among the parishioners. There were a few added wrinkles to the service on this day, however, including Patrick’s blessing of the gifts, in which congregants laid their favorite gifts, which included everything from jewelry to a unicycle to the three gifts I mentioned above, in a pile on the altar and he pronounced a blessing upon them. At one point, as he led the congregation in prayer he laid his hands on the gifts, inadvertently touching JD’s police truck and filling the room with the blaring sound of a police siren. Good times. The Eucharist that day was also a bit different that usual, for this one consisted of a white chocolate bread and sparkling grape juice to make it a little more fun and kid friendly, and this time even our now-2 year old JD got to participate. At the end, everyone called out in one loud, joyous voice, “It’s a boy!”
We flew home afterwards, grabbed a bite to eat and hit the road, heading toward the next stop on our yuletide journey, Beebe. Upon our arrival, we first went to the home of Diana’s parents, where we were able to enjoy a nice dinner, some good conversation, and some gift-giving. By the time we left she was in a near-comatose state after being awake for some 30 straight hours, so we drove over to my parents’ home and she collapsed in bed. Both that night and the next one I had long conversations with my dad, mostly about our most recent church experiences. My parents are very open minded people and highly supportive of us, and they were interested to learn more about the church and the people with whom we have spent the past two months. We talked at great length about things and I tried to give the best answers I could, though my knowledge of Episcopal theology and doctrine is still in its fledgling stages.
The next morning we went to church with my parents and, though it is still definitely a Church of Christ, I must say that there was a marked improvement over what it has been in the past. I mean, they even had a Christmas message on their sign! In case you weren’t raised in CoC circles, the church has generally never acknowledged Christian holidays, preferring to treat no day as any greater than another. After worship, we headed back to the parents for a huge Christmas dinner of crown pork roast, all the trimmings, and a vast assortment of desserts, all of which I had to at least sample.
My family has always made a big deal out of Christmas and the room full of gifts given this year was no different in that regard. There was an assortment of video games, Barbie dolls, and more cars and trucks for the kids, some cookware for Diana, and for me, a Playstation 3. Now, I had been lamenting for some time to Diana that I wished I had a system conducive to playing sports games (yeah, Techmo Bowl on the old NES is fun for a while, but it does get a little old), so with her guidance, my family gave me this huge and very cool gift. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of use out of it, particularly the NCAA Football 11 that I received. I was very proud of the gift I picked out for my dad: two front row (I believe) tickets to see Leon Redbone, one of his favorite artists of all time, in concert later this month.
The next day, Monday, we had yet another big event: Jackson’s 2nd birthday party! Diana’s mother came up for the party and we had a ball celebrating our little man’s big day. I think he enjoyed the extra attention, especially since it involved a big slab of cake.
It was a great Christmas weekend and we stayed at their house until yesterday, when we finally packed up all of our things and made the journey back to our Southaven home. Today, I’m back at work, but that’s okay. I’ve got a long season of NCAA Football ahead of me…
Live From the Dream Hometown December 23, 2009Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: beebe, Christmas, Christmas dinner, contact lenses, family, gifts
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For the past three nights, the kids and I have been at my parents’ house in the winter wonderland of Beebe, Arkansas, a.k.a. the Dream Hometown. Diana has to work this entire week, with the lone exception of Christmas Day, though she will have to work overnight for Christmas even meaning that, technically, she will be on the job from midnight until 7:00am on that special day of Yuletide cheer.
So far our trip has gone well and the pouring rain outside has done little to douse the merriment on the inside. The girls are excited and bouncing around the house with an almost reckless abandon and Jackson is enjoying all of the attention, even though he does miss his mama. We’ll be going home tomorrow, Christmas Eve, so that we can spend Christmas morning as a family.
The biggest drama for me thus far has involved my eyes. I ordered new contacts two weeks ago and, as of Sunday when we left home, they had not yet come in, so I was forced to continue wearing overdue lenses. Well, after the first night with my parents I went to put my contacts in and discovered that one of them had a large tear in it. So, for the first time in years, I’m wearing glasses full-time. Man, I hate wearing them, but I guess its better than only having one contact.
Yesterday evening, my brother Jeff, his wife Nancy, and their son Gabriel, came to the house for a wonderful dinner that included a smoked turkey and barbecue ribs, before we delved into opening presents. I soon discovered with a great deal of embarrassment that I had somehow forgotten to bring a gift for 15 month old Gabe, but hopefully his parents won’t hold it against us forever.
This evening I’ll take the kids to the in-laws for dinner and more presents and then tomorrow morning they’ll open the gifts from my parents and we will consume our traditional homemade pizza for lunch. Then Thursday, on Christmas morning, we’ll have a few Santa gifts and the whole holiday will come to a merciful end. We love Christmas but it is definitely not restful.
Hope all of you are having a great holiday, wherever you are and however you celebrate!